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What It’s Like to Be Rated on Your Looks

18 seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase were ranked on their appearance by one of their male classmates.

From left: Yasmin Behbehani, Lee Schwartz, Annabelle Kim, Jane Corcoran, Virginia Brown, Sage Spalter. Photographs by Lexey Swall.

It started as a rumor, spread through whispers and screen shots. But soon everyone at Bethesda–Chevy Chase High School knew it was true: A male student had created and circulated a document he called The List, a ranking of the physical appearances of 18 female seniors in the school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, from 5.5 to 9.4. By lunchtime on a Tuesday last March, a group of young women had walked into the administration’s office and kick-started a months-long process of reckoning and healing. They wrote op-eds in the school newspaper. They made a pop-up museum about toxic masculinity. They confronted their male classmates in a painful hours-long town hall. Who are the young women who clapped back? We talked to six and then made a few lists of our own.

Yasmin Behbehani

-Cofounded the youth arm of a local organization that assists refugees, helping it raise more than $150,000 for education.
-Formed and ran her school’s body-image-and-eating disorder-awareness club.
-Helped with disaster relief in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
New school: University of Maryland.

“These were people that I had gone to classes with, I had talked to in the hallways, I was even friends with some of them. It felt like our friendship wasn’t built on anything substantial. In all the interactions that we had, they just saw me as a number.”

Lee Schwartz

-4.72 GPA (weighted).
-One of six top editors at B-CC’s newspaper.
-Teen adviser and local leader in a UN women’s-education effort called Girl Up, for which she’s interviewed the likes of Ivanka Trump and former president of Malawi Joyce Banda.
New school: University of Pennsylvania.

“I think a lot of the girls like me were bloodthirsty at first, like ‘These boys need to be punished.’ But that quickly disappeared. It became more about making it a learning experience—I know these boys are gonna be leaders some day, they’re gonna be bosses and CEOs and politicians [who might] make decisions about women and their bodies. I want them to go into the world with the right mindset about women.”

Annabelle Kim

-Founded and led the school’s philanthropic club to help homeless shelters.
-Summer lab researcher in cell biology at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
-Started a book club for fifth-grade girls at a DC public school.
New school: Georgetown.

“I didn’t want to be upset about it. I wanted to be like, okay, whatever—this doesn’t define who I am. But I felt really embarrassed to be on the list. The part that made it so bad: Mine had .4 at the end. That was so specific. Like, what about me made it not .5?”

Jane Corcoran

-Ran B-CC’s Special Olympics Club and played basketball with young people with special needs on Saturdays for four years.
-Led the National Science Honors Society, was an IB biology teacher’s assistant, and tutored her peers in chemistry.
-Camp counselor.
New school: Colgate

“As if I don’t compare myself everyday—I have an identical twin! I had to cut off one of my close friends [whom] I’ve known since kindergarten because I was so frustrated—I was in tears, fully, and he still didn’t get it.”

Virginia Brown

-Two-time captain of B-CC’s varsity cross-country team; holds the record for the school’s fastest freshman 5K.
-Vice president of the Student Government Association.
-Canvassed and phone-banked for Maryland state delegate Emily Shetty’s last campaign.
New school: Emory

“I questioned if I had been doing something promiscuous—if the way I was dressing, the way I was acting around the boys in this program caused them to rank me the way they did. I didn’t really blame them as much as I blamed myself. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was just going to school, living my life, and it was a violation of my privacy and my right to be here.”

Sage Spalter

-Statewide political director on the four-person board of Maryland High School Democrats.
-Volunteered on the floor at the 2016 Democratic convention.
-Founded Get Ready to Vote, a project that helped 16- and 17-year-olds in Maryland preregister.
New school: Tufts.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been rated and it probably won’t be the last.”


This story is part of Washingtonian‘s feature “What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Washington.” For more:


This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She likes to write about arts, culture, race, theater, and music. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.